Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror – the most inventive story you’ll read this year
Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed … Again
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…
Aiden Bishop is trapped within the grounds of a place called Blackheath, where he lives loop after loop as the eight different people he possesses. Aiden is stuck in this place, along with some others, by the mysterious and ominous Plague Doctor. In order to escape Blackheath, The Plague Doctor informs Aiden he must solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle or be doomed to repeat the events over and over and over again.
This was a really cool, interesting and clever story that just didn’t niche with me very well. I’m quite happy to say that my lack of adoration for this book is entirely down to me, not Stuart Turton or the plot. And I am sorry. It’s a good story, but its execution has too many components I dislike as a mystery/thriller reader.
Firstly, the length of this book was far too long (for me). When I read a mystery/thriller, I want to obsess and devour it, which I can typically manage to do within 3 days. The length of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle made it a real challenge to engage me. The long story short here, is the story needed to have a lot less pages, because it felt drawn out whilst reading it. I began skim reading what I’d call excessive details, which isn’t quite fair to say, because those details will undoubtedly immerse other readers in the setting of Blackheath and the overall story.
The length of the book goes hand in hand with the lacklustre pace. Please don’t misunderstand me, a lot of intriguing and interesting plot developments happened throughout the book, but they just unravelled at a really sluggish pace, which is the other thing I personally dislike. I very rarely can tolerate a slow burn of a read.
The confusing nature of this story didn’t help matters, as ingenious as it was. As the main character (for the lack of a better word) possesses 8 people, I had a hard time keeping up with who was who, why was what, what was why and then when as well.
Yeah, I’ve purposely tried to write a confusing sentence to capture the sentiment I’m trying to explain. You can let me know if it worked, if you’re so inclined.
Although, on the other hand, I thought the possession aspect was used well to shake-up the character list. It provided different layers to the narration as each of the characters were different with their own problems, and what that meant for Aidan when he was in their bodies. It was a creative way of introducing more characters and alternating POVs.
As for Aidan, I didn’t care for him much throughout the read, as due to the body-hopping, I didn’t feel we were getting any insight into his character whatsoever. And that remains somewhat true even by the end, but it didn’t prevent me from rooting for him and his escape.
Also, I felt the footman character was an ineffective villain; the vague way in which he was written, left me more confused and irritated than tense and fearful.
My favourite thing about this book was its tone and setting. The prose has an old air about it, as if it was written a century ago, which made it very endearing to read at the good points. Lastly, the plot development was good, and even though I predicted two of the big twists, the one I didn’t impressed me and deserves a round of applause.
Overall, I read this story within a couple of days and I’m rating it 3 / 3.5 stars. I really have hummed and hawed about where this lands rating-wise, but I’m going to be considerate in rounding it up, because as I already said at the beginning, I genuinely think the problems I’ve mentioned, are on this occasion, my bad.
I wouldn’t rush to recommend this to anyone, but I won’t dissuade anyone either. I think this would be a brilliant film or TV show, which I hope is adapted soon – I’d probably have loved the story through that method of storytelling, because the story is very original.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Published: October 2018